Targeting the Stress System During Gestation: Is Early Handling a Protective Strategy for the Offspring?

Valentina Castelli, Gianluca Lavanco, Anna Brancato, Fulvio Plescia
Front. Behav. Neurosci.. 2020-01-31; 14:
DOI: 10.3389/fnbeh.2020.00009

Lire sur PubMed

1. Front Behav Neurosci. 2020 Jan 31;14:9. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2020.00009.
eCollection 2020.

Targeting the Stress System During Gestation: Is Early Handling a Protective
Strategy for the Offspring?

Castelli V(1), Lavanco G(2)(3)(4), Brancato A(5), Plescia F(5).

Author information:
(1)Department of Biomedicine, Neuroscience and Advanced Diagnostics, University
of Palermo, Palermo, Italy.
(2)INSERM U1215, Neuro Centre Magendie, Bordeaux, France.
(3)University of Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France.
(4)Department of Biomedical and Biotechnological Sciences, Section of
Pharmacology, University of Catania, Catania, Italy.
(5)Department of Health Promotion, Mother and Child Care, Internal Medicine and
Medical Specialties « Giuseppe D’Alessandro », University of Palermo, Palermo,

The perinatal window is a critical developmental time when abnormal gestational
stimuli may alter the development of the stress system that, in turn, influences
behavioral and physiological responses in the newborns. Individual differences in
stress reactivity are also determined by variations in maternal care, resulting
from environmental manipulations. Despite glucocorticoids are the primary
programming factor for the offspring’s stress response, therapeutic
corticosteroids are commonly used during late gestation to prevent preterm
negative outcomes, exposing the offspring to potentially aberrant stress
reactivity later in life. Thus, in this study, we investigated the consequences
of one daily s.c. injection of corticosterone (25 mg/kg), from gestational day
(GD) 14-16, and its interaction with offspring early handling, consisting in a
brief 15-min maternal separation until weaning, on: (i) maternal behavior; and
(ii) behavioral reactivity, emotional state and depressive-like behavior in the
adolescent offspring. Corticosterone plasma levels, under non-shock- and
shock-induced conditions, were also assessed. Our results show that gestational
exposure to corticosterone was associated with diminished maternal care, impaired
behavioral reactivity, increased emotional state and depressive-like behavior in
the offspring, associated with an aberrant corticosterone response. The early
handling procedure, which resulted in increased maternal care, was able to
counteract the detrimental effects induced by gestational corticosterone exposure
both in the behavioral- and neurochemical parameters examined. These findings
highlight the potentially detrimental consequences of targeting the stress system
during pregnancy as a vulnerability factor for the occurrence of emotional and
affective distress in the adolescent offspring. Maternal extra-care proves to be
a protective strategy that confers resiliency and restores homeostasis.

Copyright © 2020 Castelli, Lavanco, Brancato and Plescia.

DOI: 10.3389/fnbeh.2020.00009
PMCID: PMC7006220
PMID: 32082129

Auteurs Bordeaux Neurocampus